What poor number sense looks like
Children with poor number sense tend to focus on procedure and will rely on methods that they feel secure with. They apply inefficient and immature strategies to calculations and fail to spot links and connections that could get them to the answer more quickly.
Often, children with poor number sense prefer to use pen and paper rather than working things out in their heads. They can be reluctant to estimate an answer before working it out and will generally accept whatever answer they get — without considering whether it is reasonable or not.
This was perfectly illustrated to me when a Year 5 child was trying to estimate the sum of two four-digit numbers before calculating the answer. She approached this task by calculating the answer and then giving an estimate. I asked her why she was doing it that way around and her reply was,
“It is much easier to find an estimate for the answer after you have worked out what the answer is.”
You have to admire her logic — if nothing else!
Children with poor number sense don’t enjoy maths and won’t spend time being creative with and exploring numbers. Ironically, they are doing a harder version of maths, that relies upon remembering and applying procedures, with little understanding of the underlying numerical concepts.